Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers in Food: # 48, Cat Cora

Catherine "Cat" Cora was born in 1968 in Jackson, Mississippi.  Her father Spiro was Greek and Cat grew up around the restaurant industry with both a father and grandfather in the business. Her Greek national heritage, and southern Mississippi roots have resulted in a creative and unique blend of influences. Cooking and eating were the center of her young life; meals at the Cora house often combined spices from the South with fresh cheeses and home-cured olives sent by relatives from the island of Skopelos. 

Although her serious interest in cooking began as a teenager (at the age of 15, Cat had developed a business plan for her own restaurant), after high school, she pursued a traditional college degree in Exercise Physiology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Julia child was an early mentor and encouraged her to leave Mississippi for New York, where she followed her dream and attended the  Culinary Institute of America in New York’s Hyde Park.

Then came some real-time training which included a series of chef jobs in New York under the guidance of notable chefs like Anne Rozensweig and Larry Forgione.  She also made a career stopover in France where she was worked with Roger Verge, chef/owner Le Moulin de Mougins, and Georges Blanc, chef/owner of Georges Blanc restaurant. 

After returning to New York again, Cat became sous chef at The Old Chatham Shepherding Company under Chef Melissa Kelly. Next she headed West to Northern California, where she served as Chef de Cuisine at Napa Valley's Bistro Don Giovanni.

Cat made her TV debut in 1999, as co-host of Food Network’s Melting Pot with Rocco Di Spirito. She went on to host My Country My Kitchen: Greece, Date Plate, and was one of the featured hosts on Fine Living’s Simplify Your Life. A documentary, Cat’s In The Kitchen, was also made about her first James Beard dinner in April, 2002.

Preceding Iron Chef America, Cat co-hosted Kitchen Accomplished on Food Network. She also appeared in NBC’s Primetime Miniseries, Celebrity Cooking Showdown, where celebrities were paired with famous chefs and competed in a timed cook-off à la Iron Chef America.

In 2005, Cora was tapped as the first female Iron Chef on the Food Network’s popular Iron Chef America Show.  Chef Cat Cora's appearances as an Iron Chef has made her a household name.  She has
 three cookbooks to her credit titled, Classics With a Twist, Cooking From the Hip, and Cat Cora’s Kitchen (which was her first and was inspired by her Greek and Southern heritage and contains many of her family’s favorite recipes). She also boasts a line of branded products that includes cookware, knives, wooden utensils, and cutting boards.  

Cora expanded on her passion for food by forming Chefs for Humanity.  The charitable organization founded by Cora is a grassroots coalition of chefs and culinary professionals guided by a mission to quickly be able to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency and humanitarian aid, nutritional education, and hunger-related initiatives throughout the world.

Openly gay, Cora has four sons – Zoran, Caje, Thatcher, and Nash – with her partner, Jennifer Cora. (Jennifer bore the first three; Cat gave birth to Nash three months after Thatcher was born.) She currently resides in the Santa Barbara, California area with her family.


I've always wanted to make an olive oil cake and with her Greek background, I thought this would be a great choice for a Cat Cora recipe. I wasn't thrilled with the result, not that it didn't turn out exactly the way it was supposed to, but I guess olive oil cakes are not going to be on my favorite dessert list. I cut way back on the olive oil after reading comments on the recipe; no need for more.

Ladi Tourta (Olive Oil Cake)
Recipe courtesy Cat Cora

3 large eggs, beaten 
2 cups granulated sugar 
12 ounces extra-virgin olive oil  (I used 8-9 ounces)
10 ounces milk 
2 ounces orange liqueur 
2 ounces fresh orange juice 
3 teaspoons lemon zest 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
4 ounces blanched almonds, finely chopped 
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch cake pan. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, liqueur, orange juice, and lemon zest. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Whisk until well blended. 
Fold in the almonds. 
Pour the mixture into the buttered cake pan. Bake for 1 hour. Place on a rack to cool. Run a knife around the edges and place it on a plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Join Mary from One Perfect Bite and all the other participants in this fun series.


  1. I can't imagine that I'd like the cake either, but I enjoyed learning more about her.

  2. She is lovely. Olive oil cake...never heard of it before. It looks lovely. Happy weekend my friend.

  3. A beautiful cake! So soft.



  4. Well, have I got an olive oil cake for you! Found it on one of the blogs and it is magnificent... like a cloud with a gorgeous flavor... shame on cat to give a dog of a recipe (sorry Barbara, couldn't help myself with the bad pun!).

    She always seemed to me to be a powerful turbine of a person, charming and supremely confident and competent. I remember seeing her on Iron Chef and thinking she dispelled any myths about "girls" in the kitchen.

    What am amazing history she has... those places she worked, no wonder she is a game changer... but still, bad cake is bad cake!
    PS love your new picture... that's a great haircut!!!

  5. I've read with interest about olive oil cakes, but since I'm not a cake baker, I never gave it much than a glancing thought. Too bad it disappointed, but I must say it's pretty.

    I've heard of Cat mostly because of Iron Chef. But can you imagine having Julia Child as a mentor and then along the way working with Roger Verge? Now that's dancing with the stars. I was a little surprised about the gay part. I hadn't heard that, but it's so nice that they have 4 sons that they can share. I also admire what she's doing for charity. Very enjoyable read Barbara.

  6. I have made an olive oil cake and, while finding the texture and taste interesting, it never got a second try. I'm enjoying finding out more about Cat.


  7. I've heard of her but never knew who she was...

  8. P.S. I forgot to mention that I really like your new profile photo!


  9. Great post Barbara. I admire Cat Cora very much. Love your new photo!

  10. Cat Cora is my hero!

    I tried olive oil gelato in NYC last year and was stunned at how good it was! I bet the cake is good!

  11. I love the crumb of an olive oil cake. They are so moist and delicious. I can't believe how many people comment on my blog that the olive oil has too heavy of a flavour and would overpower the cake. My response is that if you use a good quality, fruity olive oil it will be the best cake ever!

  12. I do like the sound of this cake. I've made a couple of different cakes using olive oil...and they always seem to involve citrus. ha! Adding this to my to-try list. :D

  13. I've always wanted to make an olive cake, but never have for some reason. I have a feeling Cat Cora's is a great choice! Thanks for the education, too :)


  14. I wouldn't give up on olive oil cake just yet. This one just has a too much. My aunt's standard cake for guests is an olive oil cake and it's very nice, but the amount of oil is only about 4 to 6 ounces.

  15. I'm betting that olive oil cake is one of those things that are better in theory....

    I've always wanted to make one, but was worried that my family would turn up their noses!

  16. I like the idea of olive oil cake and this one is pretty; sorry it didn't taste as good as it looks! Have a great weekend.

  17. What a shame it didn't taste as good as it looks because it certainly looks great.

    I've made a Zucchini Chocolate Olive Cake once that was delicious. I'm thinking now it was the chocolate ;)

  18. This was my first pick, but then I decided to go with the pastitsio! It looks absolutely beautiful! Sorry it didn’t taste all that great! Have a wonderful weekend!

  19. What a wonderful cake. I have had something similar to this. It was nice and citrusy. Generally I was thinking it would be savory, but not at all.

  20. I ahve wanted to try olive oil cake for quite some time now - this post has inspired me to get a move on :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  21. Cat Cora has some impressive accomplishments to boast. I love olive oil cake for its lightness, sorry this was not your favorite recipe for cake.

  22. What a great bio of Cat Cora! I always skim through things and head straight for the food ... sorry about your olive oil cake. I have a German friend who gave me a recipe for an olive oil cake and it, too, was not what I expected. Moist, but a bit heavy ... oh well, they can't all be awesome ... right? DRAT!

  23. That sounds like it would be super moist, yum!

  24. I have yet to try making an olive oil cake myself. Great tip about cutting back on the oil!

  25. ah, i love her--she's so well-spoken and clever. i think we'd be friends. :)

  26. What a stellar post. I love the recipe you picked to share with us. I really like olive oil cakes and will be trying this one very soon. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  27. I love olive oil cake. I also make olive oil and grape muffins that are delicious. I found your blog because your son works with my dad. I have a blog of my own and am trying to build my audience. Would love if you'd visit.

  28. Olive oil is such a powerful ingredient. For years it was used only in savory dishes and it was a shame. I use it very often to sweets as well! This cake must be really soft and moist. I love its texture!



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